(Photo by Steven Woo)
What better way to recover from (or atone for) Interbike than to start my 'cross season a little early? And what better place, than the Fort Ord Day Camp in Seaside? With many of my teammates out pre-riding McLaren park for next weekend's BASP season opener, it was up to me to represent the team alone at CCCX. I had little excuse not to show, since the race is "close" to my house. (For the record, this means 70 miles away, instead of 110 miles).
The first climb out of the starting gate led to the familiar realization that my fitness isn't where I want it to be, but I was handling myself for most of the first lap. Then the second sandy descent led to the familiar sensation of going over the bars. This was my first race on a proper CX bike (a borrowed LeMond with fresh Michelen Mud2's slapped on the night before) but I won't blame it on the unfamiliar bike – I've proven adept at crashing equally well no matter what bike I'm on.
The next realization came in the second lap, when I realized that no amount of dismount/remount practice truly simulates a race situation unless it is performed in a state of severe oxygen deprivation. But things started to seem like they were going pretty well. I was excited! My first race of the season! I hadn't even been passed (much) yet. Then, immediately after crossing the start/finish line to start my third lap, I flatted. DNF. Out. The day was starting to suck.
After a brief period of moping around in the pits, and some encouragement by Steven Woo, I changed tubes and went out for a dignity lap. That cheered me up a bit. Next, I rode out with Surly John and the heckle squad to the Sand [Heckle] Pit via some awesome berm-y singletrack that wasn't part of the course. The trails out there at Fort Ord are super-fun! Even when you stop to avoid crashing into the guy ahead, and the rider behind you crashes into you from behind. That cheered me up even more.
After a couple hours of merciless heckling, I went out for a couple more laps during the warmup for the A's. Whether it was the fact that I was following better riders, the lower tire pressure in my Michelin Mud in the front, or the two Tecates and several Belgian Waffle Cookies in my stomach, something made me ride much smoother and better than any of my previous laps. Probably faster, too. I made sure to power through the sandpit at high speed each time, in order to justify the previous heckle-sessions. I also hopped both of the log barriers, although I can't say I did a good job of it -- I biffed my rear wheel off of them hard enough to elicit an audible cringe from bystanders. Even the descent that I had crashed on earlier wasn't so bad, when I took the inside line.
After a few laps of heckling from the sandpit during the A race, our group migrated to the top of the run-up, where the world's best cyclocross racer/drummer of the Rock Lobster/HRS team had set up a full drumset.
(Photos by Steve Anderson)
Sure beats a bunch of cowbells, but just to be sure, we rang cowbells too. It was totally awesome, rivaling the Cross Crusade drum line from SSCXWC last year.
After the A race was over, I practiced dollar grabs with the leftovers at the top of the runup. After grabbing the soggy bills, I tried to give the dollars back to their owners, who then decided that I had earned them. Another realization: That was my first successful dollar grab! I'm commemorating it by taping the dollar to my toptube. Back in the pits, I chatted with race-winner Josh Snead, and he showed off his 46t Dura-Ace chainring. Bastard.
Yesterday proved that when it comes to cyclocross, you don't have to have a great race in order to have a great day*.
*But it doesn't hurt! See you all at McLaren Park next Sunday!
(photo credit: Steven Woo)